The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many rapid and unexpected changes to our lives. Please take time to watch this video as Dan Linrud shares an important message about how Oregon Conference churches will weather the storm. Or read the transcript below.
Hi Friends. I wanted to take a moment for a chat with you. I wish we could walk together on our beautiful Gladstone campus or stop to sit on a bench under those beautiful big trees and visit on this sunny day. Things I need to share with you are so significant it’s just not satisfying doing it this way. I think we’re all probably feeling that way at times. I mean, who would have imagined that just staying at home would cause fatigue?
This COVID-19 pandemic has brought profound and sweeping changes to our lives, our social context, and our economic reality. Some among our Oregon Conference family have been impacted by the disease itself. We’ve all had to do our part in helping to minimize that by staying at home. As a result, most of us will be affected in some way by the economic changes left in its wake. There are plenty of reasons for a person to feel a bit down.
There are also reasons to be encouraged. I’ve been inspired by the ways that churches and individuals have adapted quickly to experience Christian community even in this strange context of physical distancing. Our churches have been relentless in studying, worshipping, and fellowshipping together through whatever means possible. Pastors, lay leaders, educators and conference leadership have been rapidly adapting to meet the needs of this changing environment.
It’s seems that we may be seeing the dawn of a “new normal,” both socially and economically in our society. As the Conference leadership team that you have entrusted with the stewardship of this beautiful family of ours, it’s our responsibility to plan so that the church and its mission will sustain and flourish, even in a new environment.
So how do we prepare? First, we stay focused on mission. It’s All About Jesus! Always has been, always will be. So, that’s the mission of the Oregon Conference and it is the principle around which we orient everything we do. In times as uncertain as these, our security is found in Jesus. When we need wisdom and guidance for the road ahead, our direction is found in Jesus.
In Manuscript Releases volume 9, Ellen White writes: “The only course that can be pursued by the worker is not to look to or depend upon any man, but to look to Jesus, and to do His work in harmony with His revealed will. Laborers in the field must be trusted to do the work committed to their hands. As emergencies shall arise, they must depend upon the grace of Christ, and obtain wisdom from above, in order to make decisions that will be advantageous to the work." MR9; 178
It is a truly humbling challenge to lead in God’s church, especially in times of emergency. For this reason, we are singularly focused on depending on Jesus and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
This new context requires strategic efficiency for missional effectiveness. It’s a phrase I repeat so often with our team that it may actually echo in their dreams. Strategic efficiency for missional effectiveness.
What it means is moving toward streamlining operations and personnel as much as necessary, while still fulfilling our mission of helping all people to KNOW, LOVE SERVE and SHARE JESUS. In times of plenty, there is excitement in assertively expanding ministry and providing additional resources for the field. In less prosperous times, God calls us to be even more efficient with the resources He has entrusted to his church.
This is why, on Thursday, April 23, the Oregon Conference Executive Committee voted a financial operational contingency plan consisting of four successive phases of reductions. These will be implemented as needed, if loss of personal income results in reduced tithe and offerings. These steps will help streamline ministry and continue to secure the mission of the Adventist Church in Oregon well into the future. While we hope we do not have to activate all of these measures, our responsibility to you, our members, calls us to be as transparent as possible at every step in the process.
Today, we find ourselves at Phase 1 implementation, which involves the following adjustments to operations and personnel.
· Reducing Conference department budgets by at least 10%
· Eliminating business travel reimbursement outside of Conference for all employees.
· Reducing district travel allowance by 30% for pastors, directors and administrators.
· Reducing 10 Full-Time Equivalents in the Oregon Conference Office. This is accomplished by a combination of restructuring and reducing staff
· Reducing 10 pastoral Full Time Equivalents. In this phase it is mostly accomplished by placing churches in newly assigned districts and reassigning pastors. While this has not been our usual approach, this will minimize pastoral layoffs and keep churches well served. We appreciate everyone’s prayers and support in this time of district and pastoral transitions.
All of these changes are in process and will be announced publicly at the appropriate times in the process. We will also alert you to additional steps to be taken in successive phases if or when each becomes necessary.
Thank you for your continued financial support of your tithes and offerings. Many in our Conference family have chosen to use the online giving options, others have mailed their tithe and offering checks to the church mailing address, and some churches have persons go and collect the tithes and offerings from those who need it picked up—keeping physical distancing of course. Our continued giving as a Conference family will help determine the impact on Conference and local church and school operation and personnel.
As we face this time of momentous change, I am reminded of the statement reportedly recorded in the diary of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. Speaking of the United States he said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
I believe this is what this COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession will do for our mission as God’s Church. We will all have to make adjustments, but this will not hold us down, because Jesus will raise us up. The road ahead may not be easy, but in Him, provision is promised, and victory is secured.
One of my favorite Bible promises, in Psalm 37:5 says: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in him, and he will do it.”
As we commit ourselves to him, trust him even in all the changes ahead, He will help us to carry out his mission.
God bless you, my dear friends, until our next chat.